How to Give Effective Feedback
It’s no secret that feedback is the key to professional development — after all, it’s impossible to learn anything without receiving guidance.
But in recent years feedback has also become key to attracting and retaining employees, particularly millennials. According to research
from PricewaterhouseCoopers, “[o]ne of the strongest millennial traits is that they welcome and expect detailed, regular feedback.”
However, not all feedback is created equal. Bad feedback can ruin trust between employee and employer, and employers must ensure that their feedback is constructive, encouraging and educational.
Whether you conduct annual reviews or give feedback on ongoing projects, there are simple and effective best practices you can follow to ensure that your feedback adds value. Here are three ways to give better feedback at the workplace.
Become a Collaborator
Although employees need feedback for professional development, not all employees have the same feelings regarding it. Some welcome critiques of their work, while others can become emotional.
To counter emotions around the feedback process, demonstrate that you're as much of a stakeholder in the process as the person you’re providing feedback to. “The nature of feedback often can feel like one person versus another,” says Devin Bramhall, director of marketing at Animalz
. “What it should feel like to both parties is a group effort.”
You may have to give difficult feedback, but be clear that you’re trying to help the employee improve their performance — and that their performance reflects just as much on you as it does on them.
Another method to demonstrate alignment is to ask an employee specifically what they’re looking for feedback on. This will help you provide more targeted feedback, and also will lead to better engagement. “The recipient has to be invested in improving the work or the performance for the feedback to take,” says Angus Woodward, founding director of the Center for Innovative Teaching & Engagement at Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University
Create Clear Criteria for Evaluation
One of the reasons some employees fear feedback is that they don’t know how exactly they’re being evaluated. This is particularly true when it comes to annual performance reviews. In order to counter this lack of clarity, take steps to ensure that your areas of feedback and evaluation are clearly delineated.
Woodward suggests involving your employees in the process of setting criteria. “To me it's an important principle that people being evaluated not only understand the criteria that are being used, but ideally they have some say in establishing those criteria,” he says. This creates more employee investment in the feedback process, but it also creates a valuable management opportunity for yourself. You’ll be able to take the pulse of the organization and also create a dialogue with your employees about how processes can be improved — before any formal review.
As an employer or manager, you likely bear some of the responsibility for an employee’s workload and the designation of assignments.
So when evaluating employees’ work, keep in mind that the quality of the work isn’t necessarily a full reflection of their ability — it may be a symptom of larger workplace issues, or even overwork. Also compounding this are the pressures of organizational politics. It’s highly unlikely that an employee will refuse extra work, out of fear of repercussions later. “They’re too afraid to say no because they think it's going to reflect poorly on them, and they're not going to get ahead,” Bramhall says.
When giving feedback, make sure you consider — and address — larger issues that you feel may be affecting employees. More importantly, take responsibility for mistakes, such as if you assign an employee too much work or a task that doesn’t align with their skills. In doing so you’ll ensure greater buy-in from the employee and model positive behavior toward the feedback process.